Forget the adage - eating an apple a day does not necessarily keep the doctor away. Or at least it doesn't according to a study published this week in JAMA Internal Medicine.

The research looked at the food 8,400 American adults who took part in government health surveys between 2007-8 and 2009-10 had eaten in the past 24 hours, and the medical care they had in the last 12 months.

An analysis found the 9 per cent of adults who ate one small apple or equivalent per day did not go to the doctor less than the other respondents, if factors including weight, race, education and health insurance were taken into account.

Lead author Matthew Davis of the University of Michigan said while his study indicates an apple a day does not keep the doctor away, to really disprove the maxim "you would need a different study design" because a person's food choices in the past 24 hours do not always reflect their usual eating habits.

The proverb is thought to have originated in Wales in the 1800s.

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